Democratic Leaders Agree to Drop Withdrawal Provisions from Iraq Spending Bill

After several months of debating a supplemental spending bill which would fund U.S. military operations in Iraq through fiscal year 2007 (September of this year), it now appears as though the Democratic-led Congress and President Bush are nearing an agreement. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have agreed to pursue legislation which would provide funds for the war and omit any deadlines or recommendations for troop withdrawal. Earlier this month, Bush vetoed a bill which mandated that withdrawal begin in 2007 and recommended that it be completed by March 2008, calling it a “prescription for chaos.” He has also threatened to veto another bill, currently in conference, which would fund the war through this July and tie funds for the remainder of FY 2007 to a separate summer vote.

The new bill would establish eighteen political and security benchmarks that the Iraqi government would need to meet, or risk losing U.S. reconstruction aid. President Bush, however, would have the right to waive the restriction. The measure would also include $17 billion in unrelated domestic spending, plus a federal minimum-wage increase (from $5.15 to $7.25/hr.) and small-business tax breaks. When asked whether President Bush would support the bill, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow stated “I don’t want to say yes or no to any of these things. I’m just going to say, ‘No comment.’” An anonymous senior administration official added, “It is premature to say that the White House has agreed to any provisions of the Iraq funding bill.”

Reid and Pelosi may face difficulty attracting support from their own respective caucuses, as many have criticized the new approach. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who sponsored a recently-defeated bill which would have cut off funds for the war by March 2008, stated “I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history.” In the House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) concurred, declaring “The anti-war Democrats have reached their tipping point...It’s going to take Republican votes to pass it.” Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008, took particular exception to the likelihood that the bill will include the minimum wage increase. He argued that this “tells American workers that the only way that they will get an increase in wages is to continue funding a war that is taking the lives of their sons and daughters.” While Reid touted that the new bill amounts to “a lot more than the president ever expected he’d have to agree to,” he acknowledged that it was less than ideal and promised future efforts to begin removing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Congresspedia has been closely following all congressional actions on the Iraq War, and now has several pages (and two really neat charts) documenting both past and current legislation regarding the conflict. Be sure to check out the pages, and help improve them with your own edits!

Elliott Fullmer